Monday, October 10, 2011

Beach Tale: "Eat. Drink. Repeat." A Prequel to THE BLOND LEADING THE BLOND

          Total anarchy. That’s the only word to describe the hodgepodge of homemade food offerings placed on tables stretched the length of Henrietta Zucker’s driveway.  Thick and creamy desserts snuggled up next to light and healthy salads.  Appetizers mingled with main courses.  Sushi sat next to Stromboli while the chips were three feet away from the guacamole.  There were steamy dishes not just next to, but actually touching, chilled Jello-O plates and a heavy bowl of horseradish dip had been plopped on top of an apple crumb pie, forcing the filling to ooze out over the crust and onto the white linen tablecloth. What a mess. 
          Samantha Rose Greene, known affectionately to all who loved her (and even those who didn’t) as Sam, surveyed the potluck debacle with an eye as to how best to make order out of chaos.  If Miss Izzy were here, she’d have it properly organized in no time.  No, if Miss Izzy where here this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.  But Miss Izzy wasn’t here, because she’d suffered a horrible fall down the steep steps of the watchtower and died ten days ago. 
          Sam was skeptical about the facts surrounding her dearest friend and lifelong neighbor’s demise but had refrained from voicing her concerns to the new chief of police in whom she had little faith.  He didn’t seem to be capable of finding a polar bear in a field of buttercups, let alone investigate a suspicious death, the first in their small lakeside resort in over 100 years.  So just like everything else around Braddocks Beach, if Sam wanted things done right, she’d have to do them herself, starting with a few discreet questions asked of others attending the potluck tonight.    
          But first things first.  Sam began moving dishes from the last table and stacking them on the tailgate of her husband’s F350 parked at the end of the driveway.  She then worked quickly to move desserts to the open space and moved down the line to organize side dishes, main dishes, salads and appetizers.  Just as she was finishing, Doris Rodgers, a retired nurse who’d more recently retired from her second career as a librarian, stepped over to lend a hand.
          “Not the same without Miss Izzy, is it?” Doris asked.
          “Not even close,” Sam replied.  “Can you believe they had the plates next to the napkins and forks?  Everyone knows the Chinet goes at the beginning and once people have filled their plates they grab their cutlery at the end.  It’s not like these people have never been to a potluck before.”
          “I know, but we all relied on Miss Izzy to make sure things were done right.  And if you don’t want your head to explode I suggest you stay away from the drink table.”
          “Dare I ask why?”
          “They have pop in the same bin as wine coolers.”
          Sam gasped in horror.  “But kids could grab the wrong—” 
          Doris raised her hand and Sam pressed her lips into a tight thin line to keep from speaking her mind.
          “Hang in there.”  Doris reached out and patted Sam’s arm. “I’ve heard a rumor they found Miss Izzy’s niece and she’ll be here for the reading of the will tomorrow.  I can’t remember her name, though.”
          “Ellery Elizabeth Tinsdale,” Sam said, providing the name of the last living descendant of one of Braddocks Beach’s founding fathers, only recently discovered through an exhaustive—and, she suspected, expensive--search.      
          “I’ve also heard she is the spitting image of her aunt and will no doubt sweep into town take the reins of local society to lead us with the same aplomb as Miss Izzy.  Oh, here comes Flossie and it looks like she broke out her melting pot for tonight.  I’ll just go offer my taste-testing services.”  Doris turned and greeted Flossie Underwood, the local pharmacist, and escorted both her friend and her tiered plate of chocolate-covered Oreos to the dessert end of the table.
          Sam finished organizing the appetizers, her thoughts not quite as optimistic as Doris’s.   After all, what did anyone really know about this Ellery woman?  Her father had disappeared from town a half-century ago and until recently they’d all thought him dead.  Suddenly a private investigator finds he had a daughter, and just like that she’s to be crowned Queen Bee.  Would this stranger have the ability to organize charity events, set fashion trends for each season and play Hostess with the Mostess to everything from a BUNCO party to a posh garden party, continually WOW-ing her guests with culinary masterpieces?  Those skills are not passed down on the DNA, but instead learned by years of walking in the shadows of a mentor, as Sam had been doing the past forty years of her life under Miss Izzy’s careful tutelage.   Now some nobody from nowhere is sailing into town…
          “Belly up, people,” Henrietta Zucker announced.  “Dinner is served.”  The announcement was met with riotous applause from the guests who then stampeded toward the tables. 
          Sam grabbed a piece of broccoli and swiped it through the chipotle pepper dip before stepping away. Like goats to a feeding trough, Sam thought.   The beginning of the end of polite society. She could practically hear Miss Izzy spinning in her grave. 
          Before Sam could work her way to the beverage table to make sense out of that mess, Mystic Sayers, the beat reporter for the Braddocks Beach Bugle, shoved a microphone in Sam’s face.  “Care to comment on the palm trees?” she asked.
          Sam stared at Mystic, who was her usual rumpled self.  “I’m not aware of an issue with the palm trees,” Sam replied. 
          “They’re practically dead.  Waste of taxpayer money, if you ask me.  I believe it was your idea to bring in live palms to, let me see, what were your exact words?  Oh yeah, ‘To lend a tropical feel to our beaches which will bring in more tourist dollars.’ So, your comment for the record?”
          Sam owned up to saying those exact words.  And they did lend a tropical feel to the lakeside resort in central Ohio.  Feedback had been positive and tourism was up enough to warrant the cost of their purchase.  “What’s wrong with them?”
          “Nobody’s been watering them.”
          “What?”  Sam knew Miss Izzy had secretly hired the new police chief’s grandson who was visiting Braddocks Beach for the summer, in order to ensure Sam’s great idea didn’t fail.  But Miss Izzy was like that, quietly funding community events, never wanting nor expecting a bit of thanks from anyone in the community. 
          Come to think of it, Sam hadn’t seen hide nor hair of that redheaded imp, but then she’d been preoccupied with Miss Izzy’s death and funeral to worry about it.  Maybe he thought with her gone he wouldn’t get paid? 
          Sam quickly excused herself from Mystic, offered a quick “Thank you” to her hostess, hopped in the F350 and drove straight to the beach where, still dressed in her pale blue summer sweater and pearls, she proceeded to water the three dozen palm trees herself.  Really, sometimes she felt like The Little Red Hen.  Water the palm trees, organize the potluck, find out what really happened to Miss Izzy, and do her best to settle Ellery in to her new role as Braddocks Beach societal leader.  Was it to much to hope that she carried the Queen Bee gene on her DNA?

Follow the adventures of Sam and Ellery as they try to find out what really happened to Miss Izzy in the Avalon Mystery, The Blond Leading the Blond, available at a library near you or for purchase through the following links: 


Patricia said...

Great writing, Jayne! i loved it. And it made me want to read on and on.

Anonymous said...

Love the prequel! I will never look at a potluck in the same light. The cutlery will always go at the end from now on, I promise. Way to go Jayne!